Sunday, 16 November 2014
Hollywood on the Tiber
Without the famous Cinecitta Studios this book of photos might not have happened. From the Fifties onwards stars and directors flew into to Rome's Fiumicino airport to make classics like Ben Hur, Cleopatra, The agony and the ecstasy, La Doce Vita, at the Cinecitta. With so many celebrities walking the cities streets and spending time in cafes this was just the material the world's media were always looking for and a new aggressive type of news photographer evolved. In past decades celebrities and in particular film stars had their lives revealed in a controlled manner via a studio's PR department who arranged rather contrived photo-shoots and sent the results to newspapers and magazines.
Italian news photographers and publications saw things differently, they wanted candid, intimate moments captured on film and were prepared to spend the time to get them. The few hundred photos in the book, all by Elio Sorci, capture the Hollywood invasion, especially in the early Sixties. Turning the pages I was amazed at the number of Hollywood folk who turned up in Rome. Nearly all of the pictures are casual shots but without the posed sharpness that is so evident in the old contrived PR style of photos. Here you can see Kirk
Douglas trying on shoes in a shoe shop or Clint Eastwood riding on a skateboard in the street (predictably with a nearby Vespa) or David Niven browsing a newsstand.
It's worth saying that these photos, many of them remarkably ordinary, were for tomorrow's paper, the weekly or monthly fan magazines and then their life was over, never seen again except maybe in an obituary. But seeing them printed on a classy art paper in this large rather sumptuous coffee table book they take on a life of their own. This is a interesting visual record of celebrity nostalgia that initiated a new style of photojournalism and it's still with us today.